Bulletproof Airbnb Strategy 2021: Ditch It?

With the world being turned over multiple times in 2020, many Airbnb property owners try to figure out what kind of Airbnb strategy they should follow now and for 2021.

We run a digital marketing businesses but we travel too. We provide highly skilled SEO and Content Marketing services and we collaborate with people in different countries, while we travel to them. In the past, we run our eLearning for SEO and Content Marketing too, now available as eLearning and Live Classes.

As such, we live the whole travel business from both the vendor and the end-client aspect. Hence, we have an opinion and we know how to base that in data.

We stayed in different Airbnb properties during our business and travel projects. All properties were great. Why not be? We checked the Airbnb reviews of them and we were confident that we wouldn’t lose our money.

The same happens when we choose Booking.com or any other “marketplace”. Yes, we know, they call them OTAs too, but they are marketplaces.

Wherever you place your product for renting or for sale, that is a marketplace; an e-shop if you like, but with far more management tools.

What is the Real Platform Value for your Airbnb Strategy?

There are tons of value when you are present in a big marketplace that people are trained to find and use. It opens a huge window to lots of potential clients. The same stands for Amazon, Etsy, Booking and so many other marketplaces.

There is a tricky point, though. As they grow larger, being present is not enough. Having good reviews is great but still not enough. As many other “shooters” show up next to you and in near/better locations with the same/similar/better prices, then something happens.

What happens is under the law of offer and demand. A big volume of “offers” gradually creates clutter and noise. On the other hand, the end-clients will still choose with criteria like price/proximity/reviews and needed space.

As such marketplaces grow bigger they end up being like Amazon. Amazon is a huge marketplace with reviews, brand filters, price filters, and all. However, when you are present in so big “real estates” you are kinda driven to the need to promote yourself. So, Amazon, at some point introduced the in-Amazon Paid Ads (sponsored products and sponsored brands, etc).

That was likely to occur. It happened with Facebook and so many other “social”, or not, marketplaces. It is not a bad thing. It is a good one.

However, there is a “catch”. You actually pay Amazon, to make your products stand out from the noise, inside Amazon. Eventually, you promote your Amazon pages, inside the Amazon territory. Is that bad? Not necessarily. You see, Amazon product pages show up in Google results. Airbnb individual pages, do not show up.

So, if you put a business model into analysis, you start wondering if you actually build Amazon’s Marketing and Reputation and not yours. On top of that, the same you need to ask yourself about Airbnb.

You see, people buy and consume. The majority makes no detailed analysis of a brand, especially when they buy online for things that are not “Big Brands” that you can find in your nearby store.

So, if you want your branding to gradually build up, you must think this:

Are You Doing It? Are you really building your online presence and authority, that you can use it as you please, or are you just building not yours but the Airbnbs’ Strategy?

Hold that thought.

Why Property Owners/Managers Prefer Airbnb?

We partially analyzed that in the previous section, but there is more.

Selling-wise: You are in a marketplace where people fly in. Someone else (Airbnb) is doing “your” marketing (or the marketing, for you). It seems that you solved the main pain of a business: Selling.

Administration-wise: You have all these Airbnb tools to handle payments, reviews, collect money, showcase your property with its own URL (but is it your own URL?), upload/download pictures, descriptions, etc. Sounds fantastic, right? It is. But nothing comes without a cost, and the cost is not just the Airbnb commission (which is a legit Sales Expense).

3rd Party Channel Management Tools: A small range of SaaS companies provide additional services with tools and software to handle your properties in multiple “Airbnb-like” marketplaces. That is fantastic, right? You have Airbnb tools and you have their tools and you can handle allotments, availability, bookings, and so many things. That is good. It is actually excellent, and it is a model “copied” from the “old” online booking platforms that offer Channel Management.

As you see, technology already exists. It was there all the time. You just had to have a way to learn it, so to handle your business, like so many of us do for our businesses. Nothing new, there. Business as usual.

So, for a “non-business” person, having Airbnb (and others) providing them with all these tools, things sound like a bargain.

Hold that thought, too.

Why End-Clients Like in Airbnb?

End-clients (that is your clients) like me and millions of others, find it rather easy to go on ONE website, search, evaluate, pay, be sure we won’t lose our money, and go to the property. We are familiar with cross-checking data and reviews, through Social media, Google My Business (that is becoming rather popular), blogs, and by just… googling around.

That is all we want. We don’t care about the tech part, the admin tools, and all that. We never see them.

If you take Airbnb or any other marketplace, out of the equation, you (the property owner/manager) has to provide all the above anyway.

It is not an “inovation” in doing business. It was like that (and still is) for many years. It is “eCommerce” logic 1-0-1.

  1. You provide
  2. We find and buy
  3. You deliver
  4. We use
  5. We review

We (the buyers) don’t care on if you have the top tech platform behind your properties/products.

Hold that additional thought.

What you Loose With a Strict Airbnb Strategy?

That is a practical question with tangible answers. Let’s see if you indeed lose anything.

When you participate in a marketplace, without having a strategy and a solution to gradually drive the audience to your website, then you work for the marketplace. You build the online reputation of that marketplace and you build nothing for you.

That is many hotels found out, the hard way in the past. At some point the ones that could or could see the future started paying attention to their own websites. Sure, they distributed allotment in marketplaces but their end-scope was to skip the costs of the middle-man.

Booking.com provides a good service as a marketplace, but that comes with hefty commission on the room booking fee. It is not bad, as that can easily be the cost of Sales. It is such. But, what do you do with that cost/opportunity?

Do you use the marketplace to get people in your website and train them to book from your website? Many trainers do that through Udemy.com (the popular training marketplace). Academies and universities do the same with Coursera and such. They present content for someone to consume inside these marketplaces, whilst the end goal is to get people on their websites.

Perfectly normal, as long as you do it.

That means you need to invest a not-so-big amount (when it comes to single properties) to build a landing page and all the location info. You need to have a strategy in place to get there.

It is not a complicated strategy to learn and apply or -even- to assign to someone else.

Yet, without such, you keep on working only for the marketplace. You get the benefites but you lose too. This is how it goes.

Having all that in mind, what happens when marketplaces fall?

The Fall of Empires

In the last 2 years, quite a few huge OTAs failed, declared bankruptcy, plus they were forced to do like that due to the current Covid cases. No, it was not just the Covid “framework” responsible. Many of the “big names” were trembling for years.

Some expected such, while others didn’t see it coming at all. The problem touched Airnbn too. It announces various issues wth cashflow, money returns, profits, etc.

Where that leaves you as a property owner, who wants to keep on renting their property? This is where your online status comes in.

Where you prepared for such? Great. Airnbnb or any other marketplace is/was just one channel for you.

Not prepared? Then you need to start building. Do you really have any other option?

Most eshops follow this practice. They share their product/services feeds to centralized marketplaces, but they keep their standalone website/eshop. Nobody knows when “s….t hits the fan”.

Reviewing your Marketplaces and Your Airbnb Strategy

From this basic business flow analysis, we see that what you actually receive from Airbnb is -basically- the incoming potential seekers for renting your property.

The tech (in 2020) and way before that, is solved already. You don’t need Airbnb for that.

The main question is this:

Do you want to own your business and all the reputation you build on it? What would happen if Airbnb decides to close for business? What is the value that remains to you?

That is not a small thing to consider. When you participate in a marketplace, your existence online is directly related to the URLs of that marketplace. Whatever you pay or promote, relates to that marketplace.

If the marketplace stops existing, you stop to exist online too.

Nowadays, technology can help you eliminate that risk. You can very easily do the following. You will also find what you gain by doing these.

You may ask on if you can do it or learn what to ask and expect from somone who can do it.

Read along:

  1. Book a domain name: That is your very important marketing asset and the main reason to have your own website. With that, you own your business and any marketing effort comes back to you, not to Airbnb or other. The actual domain booking process takes 5 minutes (or less). You just need to know how to evaluate existing domains or new ones.
  2. Rent hosting: There are tons of hosting options to start and to scale. For almost all serious ones there are reviews. You just need to learn how to evaluate, without the tech jargon.
  3. Install WordPress: Most hosting servers will do it for you or you can follow a simple guide to do it. It is a 15 minutes process.
  4. Buy and install a Property Theme: You don’t need to hire expensive web design services unless you want to. Most property websites rely on good photography and on a good base design. You will replace the photos and the texts on any theme.
  5. Install a booking plugin and insert your properties: There are popular ones and theme embedded ones. You just need one that allows you to show availability and take reservations, without paying commissions to any 3rd party.
  6. Do Basic or Advanced Search Engine Optimization: Learn how to find money keywords and SEO keywords. If you thought that that is not important with Airbnb too, you are wrong. That is crucial for writing any kind of content. You have to learn this as it relates to ranking in Search Engines. What will happen if any “Airbnb” type of business closes down or changes its terms and conditions?
  7. Write SEO Content: As an extension to the previous, you have to write content that is descriptive and relates to what you offer, your locations, and all the things that relate to your property (and location). So, Airbnb or not, you need to know how to do that, even if you assign it to someone else.
  8. Collect payments: That, today, is extremely easy to do. Connecting Paypal, Stripe, Credit Cards and so many other ways, are almost an automated process. No coding is needed. You don’t even need to purchase something to connect Paypal and Stripe.
  9. Have Meaningful Analytics and Metrics: Don’t you want to have detailed data for your potential clients that book or -more important- for those who don’t? Google Analytics is free to have and free to learn.
  10. Rent SaaS Channel Management services: You can use any company that provides such and deploy your property in many “Airnbn like” marketplaces, whilst you communicate and make your website popular at the same time.
  11. Rent Digital Marketing Services of any kind: You can learn, do, or assign all kinds of marketing works. Don’t be fooled! Eventually, you will have to pay for Ads in Marketplaces. Building the online reputation of a marketplace, through your property and efforts, doesn’t put that away. Remember what Amazon does.

Do you think all these steps are too much? They are not. From 1 to 10, they are done once. Just do it right and avoid rookie mistakes. You can learn how to do it by yourself.

Point 11 is something you can learn to do it too and relates to Content Marketing, Paid Ads or Social Ads. If you don’t have the time or the need, you can delegate it, but make sure you know what to ask and what to expect.

So, is it worth it to have your own online presence AND distribute your properties in Marketplaces? Yes, it does as in that way, what you build comes back to you.

That is the scope, if you want it. To build a parallel independence presence and use all the Channels/Marketplaces for gaining clients and be independent at the same time.

Eventually, you can use the Marketplaces to drive potential clients to your Property Brand. This is how Big Brands do it. Amazon is another channel for them, not the only channel. They know that marketplaces are great but it is better “not to carry all the eggs in one basket”.

The reason for that is that marketplaces lead the game when you only work with them.

Read about, how many discussions Booking.com arose with the fees they charge on top of reservations and VAT in the last 2-3 years. Learn, how they keep the right to change your own prices.

Are these tactics bad? Who cares if they are bad? You can’t influence them. You need to find different channels to not depend on them. Like many hotels do, too.

Recent changes and the fall of huge Travel corporations (TUI, Cook, etc) show up that you need to build your own brand.

That comes with your own online presence.

That is the reason we launched our highly detailed non-technical courses for WordPress SEO (how to build a complete SEO website from 0 to 100), and the exclusive Content Marketing Course (how to use all Content/Search Marketing tools to get traffic and ranking). These times demand such knowledge. They always did.

Building your own website for your property is not hard-math. Even if you assign it to someone, you need to know what to expect and what to ask.

The same stands for organic ranking and marketing, otherwise be prepared to make Google and Facebook far richer, with Adwords and Social Campaigns.

Conclusion: Shift and Shuffle Your Airbnb Strategy for 2021

As you read through the worldwide business news, you see that “big corporations” fall easily enough. Airbnb should be just another sales channel for you and not your only channel.

You need to build your standalone online reputation while stopping your dependency on any marketplace.

In that way, you may end up not needing the marketplaces at some point, or use them just for specific audience sales. Like big brands do.

You can learn from them. They too learned by getting trained on how things work and put them into practice.

You may not have their budget, but you can copy a good part of their strategy and logic.

Invest in your knowledge and in your business, not to someone elses business.

Ask us more about our training.

Stay healthy and safe.

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